Press releases

Gender diversity in UK boardrooms struggles to keep up with European counterparts

1 February 2022

  • Only three in 10 board seats held by women in UK behind leaders France, Norway and Italy in boardroom diversity
  • However, UK enters into top 10 global ranking and could reach boardroom gender parity by 2027
  • Globally, only one in five board seats are held by women

Gender diversity in UK boardrooms is lagging behind European counterparts with only 30.1 per cent of company seats held by women in the UK. According to a new global report by Deloitte, ‘Women in the boardroom: A global perspective’, women leaders on the continent boast the largest share of global boardroom seats, led by France (43.2 per cent), followed by Norway (42.4 per cent) and Italy (36.6 per cent).

The UK entered the top 10 global ranking, moving from 13th to 9th place since the report was last published in 2019. However, despite the 7.4 per cent increase of women holding UK board seats, the UK’s boardroom diversity lags behind six European countries as well as New Zealand and South Africa.

Jackie Henry, managing partner people and purpose, Deloitte UK, said: “Board diversity is a demonstration of an organisation’s commitment to inclusion. Whilst the number of board seats held by those identifying as women in the UK is moving in the right direction, we’re still a long way behind our European neighbours with leaders France only 6.8 per cent short of gender parity. UK businesses need to be even more proactive in taking diversity targets seriously, improving disclosure and more transparent reporting.”

Gender parity

Deloitte’s report, published in collaboration with the 30% Club, demonstrates slow progress towards gender parity globally with just one in five (19.7 per cent) boardroom seats held by women - a 2.8 per cent increase since 2019.

Henry added: “At this pace, the world could expect to reach near parity in 2045, more than 20 years from now, but the UK could realise gender parity as soon as 2027 if the progress we’ve seen in the last two years continues at the same pace.”

UK boards

The proportion of women on FTSE 100* boards has tripled in the past 12 years. In 2010 FTSE 100 boards were made up of just 12 per cent of women, but this has now grown to 36.2 per cent. There are 15 women board chairs in the FTSE 100 and eight CEOs; an increase of just one since 2019.

The average age of women on boards in the UK is 56.8 years, while the average age for a woman chair is 60.1 – more than four years younger than their male counterparts (64.3). The report also found the average tenure for women on boards in the UK decreased from 4.1 years to 3.6 years since the last report published in 2019.

Impact of diverse leadership

Deloitte’s global research analysed data from 10,493 companies in 51 countries and revealed a positive correlation between women CEO leadership and board diversity. Companies with women CEOs have significantly more women on their boards than those run by men - 33.5 per cent versus 19.4 per cent, respectively. The statistics are similar for companies with women chairs - 30.8 per cent women on boards versus 19.4 per cent, respectively. The inverse is true as well, with gender-diverse boards more likely to appoint a woman CEO and board chair.

Henry continued: “We know that leadership sets the tone for the rest of the business. Increased ethnic minority and all-gender participation at every level are vital if businesses want to have a truly inclusive culture. There are other important dimensions of diversity that government, regulators, businesses, and investors should consider, including LGBTQ+, disability, neurodiversity and socio-economic background.

“I believe that to achieve the strongest company boards we need a diversity of thought and experience - and that will only be possible by developing an inclusive pipeline of talent.”

Sharon Thorne, Deloitte Global Board Chair, added: “While it’s heartening to see that the world continues to make progress towards achieving gender parity, with the exception of a few countries, overall progress remains slow and uneven. The pandemic has dented efforts to achieve equality, making it even more important to move past discussion and take concrete actions to ensure inclusion within and beyond the boardroom including gender, ethnic and racial diversity among other characteristics. Increasing the number of women on boards is only the first step on a larger journey.”

30% Club

Commenting on its key findings, Ann Cairns, global chair of the 30% Club said: "With the FTSE 100 on the brink of attaining 40% women in board roles, I am encouraged by Deloitte’s finding that UK parity could be reached by 2027.

"People often ask why the 30% Club is not the 50% Club given that our aim is parity. I think this report answers that question, we are still far from the 30% tipping point in many geographies."

She added: “One of the report's most interesting findings is the real balance that female leaders bring. If women CEOs can have more balanced boards, there’s no reason that male CEOs can't. Finally, on the stretch, this speaks to the fact that women have a harder time being appointed if they don’t have previous board experience. Chairs and CEOs should be encouraged to give women their first board seat.

“There is plenty of talent out there who would make great directors. This is very true for people of colour too, many of whom would welcome the chance to make a significant contribution at the top of the corporate world but remain significantly under-represented."

- ENDS –

Notes to Editors

The ‘Women in the boardroom: A global perspective’ report is based on global, regional and country analysis based on a dataset covering 10,493 companies in 51 countries – more than 176,340 directorships – spanning Asia Pacific, the Americas, and EMEA. Only active directorships and committee memberships were considered in the analysis.

The UK dataset is part of the global report and a total of 509 UK companies were analysed. The total board seats (counting duplicates) for the UK is 4416. Not counting duplicates, the number of unique directors studied is 3900.

*The FTSE data was taken from the Hampton Alexander Review, published in February 2021, and reflects the gender diversity on FTSE boards as of that date. The successor ‘FTSE Women Leaders’ review has since been launched.

This is the seventh edition of ‘The Women in the boardroom’ report, the previous edition was published in 2019 and can be read here.

Percentage of board seats held by women by geography – Top 20.

Ranking

2021

Percentage

2019

Percentage

1

France*

43.2

Norway

41.0

2

Norway*

42.4

France

37.2

3

Italy*

36.6

Sweden

33.3

4

Belgium*

34.9

Finland

31.9

5

Sweden

34.7

New Zealand

31.5

6

Finland 

32.7

Belgium

30.5

7

New Zealand

31.9

Italy

29.3

8

South Africa

31.8

South Africa

26.4

9

UK

30.1

Germany

26.2

10

Denmark

29.6

Australia 

25.4

11

Australia

29.6

Denmark

25.4

12

Germany*

28.9

Netherlands

23.0

13

Netherlands*

28.6

UK

22.7

14

Austria*

28.2

Canada 

21.4

15

Canada

27.8

Israel

21.0

16

Ireland 

27.0

Malaysia

20.6

17

Spain* 

26.3

Nigeria

20.0

18

Malaysia

24.0

Ireland

19.9

19

USA

23.9

Austria

19.7

20

Portugal*

23.3 

Spain

19.2

(*Indicates the presence of a national quota or quota-equivalent for all or certain) listed companies.

About Deloitte

In this press release references to “Deloitte” are references to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”) a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity.

Please see deloitte.com/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

Deloitte LLP is a subsidiary of Deloitte NSE LLP, which is a member firm of DTTL, and is among the UK's leading professional services firms.
The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

For more information, please visit www.deloitte.co.uk.

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